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28 January 2015

Caroline Dunford's A Death In The Family

A quick little ramble about a quick little read. If I hadn't been distracted by work and stupid Facebook games I probably would have finished it in a single work shift with time to spare!

After her father, a vicar, unexpectedly falls dead face first into his dinner 18 year old Euphemia ("Effie") Martin takes it upon herself to get a job in order to help support her mother and younger brother. She answers an advertisement for service help at the home of Lord and Lady Stapleford using fictional experience and soon after arriving at the home finds a dead body in a service corridor. Being newly there and obviously not a professional housemaid, she's immediately on the top of the suspect list. She tries to explain herself by admitting only that she's in service because of her father's death -- but omits the fact that her family is actually of higher social standing than her employers. (Her grandfather is an Earl but pretty much disowned Effie's mother when she married or something like that.)

The year is 1910 which gives the tale a feel of the original ITV run of Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey. Please note, though, that I've ONLY mentioned the shows in case you're not otherwise familiar with the time period and the separation of the servants from the family. I saw it suggested that the book was some sort of spoof on Downton. This, of course, would be hard to pull off since the book was first published a year before Downton hit the air. I'm nitpicking. I'm in one of those moods. (These are the same types of reviewers who complain that English spellings are used instead of American. Eesh.)

Anyway, it's a pleasant enough read. Euphemia is often quick to act/speak before she thinks things through. She's 18 years old, after all, and I can imagine that 18 year olds in 1910 weren't all that different than 18 year olds now (at least as far as the whole ability to keep their mouth shut part goes). Of course not everyone in the household reacts well to her but she does bond rather quickly with some of the members from each side of the house -- the servants as well as the family. In fact, she ends up teaming up with one of the Stapleford sons to clear her name, keep her position, and solve the crime.

For me the relationship between Euphemia and Bertram is the highlight of the whole book. The mystery aspect was decently written, but for me it was secondary to Effie and Bert. They play off of each other quite wonderfully and it makes me eager to see what (if anything) may happen between them in the future. This is, after all, book one of a series that is so far 6 1/2 books long....

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